Recently I was asked to contribute to an article being written by the Inverness Courier, about whether the Highlands of Scotland will be able to cope with our increased visitor numbers. They used some, but not all of the views that I sent them…. fair enough.
Today a different chunk of what I had sent was used by the Highland news, newspaper.
On both occasions the part that I felt was most important in my original text was left out, that being how we should be focusing on creating employment in remote parts of the north by promoting AirBnB style accommodation, and how to finance this through low interest loans from HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise ).
So for the record I would like to share here my full response to the original request….. here’s what I wrote…..
There is obviously an annual problem of bed shortages in the high season, the same headlines fill the front page year on year. I would like to see more encouragement given to local residents to explore offering “AirBnB” type accommodation, rather than just getting another hotel chain to build another charmless hotel. That way the money would remain within the local communities that are feeling the pressure the most. To that end HIE could consider offering low interest loans to people living on the NC500 specifically for buying cabins/huts/statics to rent out , thus creating employment.
I would also like to see a ‘tourist tax’ of a couple of pounds per night put on a bed, so long as the money was ring fenced for the local economy. It’s frankly ridiculous to suggest that a visitor , who is already forking out between £150-200 for a bed for the night would not come to the Highlands if we added a £2 tax on their bill.
It is true to say that we have created a monster in the Highlands with the success of our marketing, and I really don’t believe that interest from abroad in things like loch ness And the NC500 has peaked yet.
Very soon the jeremy Clarkson Grand Tour episode where the presenters ‘do’ the NC500 will be aired worldwide, and when it is we will see a palpable spike in visitor numbers, way more than the convoys of super cars and camper vans that we are already seeing. Its not going to be pretty, its going to get considerably busier, and when that happens we are going to have to be fit for it, the roads are going to have to be driveable, and the toilets are going to have to be open….and clean.
Now is the long awaited ‘Boom-time’, the gold rush of tourists, it’s no use getting the infrastructure in place over the next ten years, we need to start looking like a top international tourist destination right away, because whether we are ready or not, whether you like it or not, they are coming, and one of the quickest ways to fast track the funding of road repairs, toilets and litter clearing is by introducing a very small ‘tourist tax’ on every bed.
I forgot to mention that if they want considerably more visitor numbers they should hurry up and Change the name of the airport from ‘Inverness airport’ to
‘Inverness and Loch Ness international airport”,
but that’s another subject….. or, is it?